no progress

Indispensable reading is the study prepared by the Institute for Accountability and Combating Corruption Research (University of Guadalajara), designed and directed by Dr. Mauricio Merinoa pioneer in studies on corruption in Mexico.

Is his Country Report (2020), On the fight against corruption in Mexico the reader will find not only how corruption is going in Mexico, but also the status of the legal and administrative instruments designed to combat it.

It would be of great benefit if the current administration and the opposition grouped in Va por México took into account the diagnosis and proposals on combating corruption found there. There are already too many years of pure blah, blah, blah and that reality does not change. May corruption continue among us at the same levels as always and without any consequences.

The report offers a novel and interesting reading on how to understand corruption. Instead of the traditional definition of corruption as “the abuse of public power for private benefit”, it is proposed to understand it as “the inevitable consequence of the capture of public space: the capture of positions, budgets and public decisions by political groups or economic, which divert the State from its fundamental purposes. A capture that perverts the nature of public affairs in search of a greater accumulation of power or money, or both.

This state capture can and does come from all sectors of society: from political parties and public servants, to elected officials, including organized crime or those who hold economic power.

From this definition, as simple as it is useful, it follows what to do to combat corruption “from its causes and not only when its effects have already been consummated”. It makes perfect sense. We cannot confuse the fight against corruption “with the punishment of corrupt individuals, without taking into account the practices, spaces and opportunities they had to increase their political power or wealth.” The administrative or criminal sanction must operate, but if the fight against corruption were reduced to it, we would disable hundreds of public servants, we would impose punishments on thousands of politicians or businessmen, we would overwhelm the capacity of prisons, but corruption would continue to be a phenomenon extended, tolerated and, worse still, encouraged.

For this reason, by not addressing the causes of corruption, but rather opting for its public exhibition —which, of course, is necessary— and, in the best of cases, for infrequent, selective punishment and always with political purposes, Mexico has failed in the fight against corruption six-year term after six-year term.

As the study rightly says, the main causes of corruption are still in force precisely because “the very diverse manifestations of the capture of public positions and budgets have not been mitigated”, nor has “the maximum publicity of the decisions taken by the obligated subjects”. What is more, both expressions have become more acute despite the installation of a legal scaffolding designed to mitigate them. As almost always in Mexico we can be champions in the legal design, even in the construction of institutions to enforce it, but unfortunately for all, the law is ignored and the institutions are captured making them inoperative. There are few exceptions to this rule, such as the National Electoral Institute, which, with proven professionalism, courage and determination, has resisted the current process of institutional destruction.

Given these conditions, what does the Country Report (2020), On the fight against corruption in Mexico and that, I repeat, it should take into account the current administration, as well as the opposition that wants to return to government.

First, eradicate political discretion in the appointment of public posts, that is, stop using the national and local public sector as swag.

Second, prevent arbitrariness in the allocation and use of public spending, including abuse in the direct awarding of contracts for the acquisition of public goods and services, which continues to increase in the country.

Third, eradicate the opacity in public information that is becoming more and more frequent.

Fourth, punish those who commit corruption offenses or crimes without resorting to the persistent and systematic politicization of justice.

And, fifth, guarantee that none of these practices distort and corrupt the country’s public administration.

It sounds simple. It is, “if simulation is left behind in compliance with some of the regulations in force to eradicate the capture of posts, budgets and public information.”

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